The world is a challenging place for someone with autism; it is stressful and unnerving. For that reason alone, you want to make their home life as predictable and comfortable as you can, but this is not easier either. That said, with a few adaptations, home life becomes simpler and better.
Ordinary life for autistic people
People diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are highly sensitive individuals. Typically, they are sensitive to sensory overload – the extent of the overload depends on where the person sits on the spectrum. A sensory assault can come from light, noises, or crowds.
Changes in routine can also cause a person with ASD to feel stressed and reactive, making ordinary life a challenge. With these kinds of sensitivities, it can be difficult to go into public spaces since even familiar and routine places can trigger sensory overload.
Homelife for autistic people
Daily life in the world for someone with ASD can be challenging and upsetting, so you would expect their home life to be the opposite; surely the home of someone with ASD is perfectly optimized for their needs? But, this is not always the case, home life can also be difficult.
Firstly, an autistic person is living with others – family members and siblings – who have their own needs. These family members might change things by inviting friends over or changing the food in the kitchen. Autistic people must also have therapy sessions in the home after school.
Benefits of an autism-friendly home
Although there is no entirely perfect solution to home life with an autistic person – even your best efforts are likely to fall short now and then – there are always ways to make life easier for your autistic family member and to reduce their sensory overload making their home life happier.
With some effort and foresight, you can transform your home into an oasis of calm and familiarity for your autistic family member. But, of course, every autistic person is different as in every family home is different, so remember to adapt the tips to fit your individual needs.
Create a realistic schedule
People on the autistic spectrum don’t respond well to changes; unfamiliarity with routines and the wrong placement of household items can be a stressor or a trigger. So one of the first things you should implement in your home is a daily schedule which is also good for teenagers.
A daily schedule might look something like this: come home from school, change clothes, watch television for one hour, have dinner, take a shower, do your homework, go to bed. Of course, it might not be realistic to follow this schedule to the letter, but it’s realistic for most days.
Create the right spaces
If your autistic family member has been at school all day, it’s important they have a place where they know they can relax and switch off. This might be a space that contains their favorite things or a home with cladding if that’s something that appeals to your family members.
Downtime and alone time is essential for everyone, including autistic people. This time allows our brains to stop focusing on external stimuli or actions and instead grow and recover. Depending on your family member’s needs, try to build some downtime into the schedule.
Stock the right foods
Every autistic person responds to things in their unique way; depending on where they sit on the spectrum, they might need more routine than others or require specific routines more intensely. Regardless of this, there is always a good reason to have one of their favorite foods stocked.
It’s unlikely that they will want to eat the same thing all the time – although this is entirely possible – even so, it helps if they have a routine with their meals, so try to include a combination of familiar foods with a difference and always have a favorite treat in for them.
Remove sensory triggers
The home should be a place of comfort and relaxation as far as possible for your autistic family member; this might require adapting the home to remove sensory triggers, it might also require adapting the lifestyles of other family members to make home life easier and more comfortable.
Autistic people respond to lights, smells, and sounds in ways that most of us don’t, so you need to optimize your home to alleviate these symptoms. For example, use lamps and soft lights in the home and buy odorless cleaning products. In addition, listen to music using headphones.
Limit at-home therapies
While in school, your family member might have to undergo therapies to help them develop social and emotional skills. Often these are challenging and draining for autistic people, and it’s the last thing they want to do when they come home. So try to limit home therapies.
That said, if you still want to use therapies in the home, you can just make sure they are play-based therapies or floor-based therapies that engage with your family member on their terms. Therapies in the home can be excellent for personal development when not stressful.
Monitor for signs of stress
Chances are you will already know the broad triggers for the autistic member of your family; they might be overly sensitive to lights, sounds, smells, routines, or people; that said, these sensitivities can be a combination and change over time, so you need to keep an eye out.
When you notice your family member is stressed, but there’s no obvious cause, it’s time for detective work. Investigate the smells, sights, and sounds in the area; the thing that bothers them could be remote, like cabbage. So, find the source and brainstorm solutions.
The home should be a place of comfort and tranquility for all your family members, so if one of you is on the autistic spectrum, it’s time to adapt your way of life to accommodate them. Make your home life as routine and familiar as you can and reduce home life stress for loved ones.